Sixty bar and restaurant owners and lessees with businesses on Sisowath Quay have
formed a union in response to municipal government attempts to keep more of the footpath
clear for tourists and customers.
Sisowath Quay, street of contrasts: Above, the southern end of the bars and restaurants section, where operators are obviously toeing the line with their tables, leaving space for pedestrians.
Last week, at a meeting in the Hotel Cambodiana, they formed the Restaurant Operators
Association of Cambodia (ROAC) after receiving letters from the police and local
commune councils to move their tables back.
Tables and chairs, vehicles and motorcycles blocking the sidewalk force pedestrians
to walk on the busy riverfront street.
Thong Khon, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Tourism, attended the meeting
and said he supported ROAC because it would help raise industry standards.
The Municipal Government did not attend the meeting, but Governor Kep Chuktema commented
later that doing business on the sidewalk was illegal and businesses that persistently
encroached would be fined, unless they had applied for and received written permission
from the municipality.
He said: "We want to keep Sisowath Quay looking good and a comfortable and safe
place for tourists. It's our highest profile tourist area and tourists are very important
to our economy.
"We knew there would be a reaction to the order, but if everyone respected the
law everyone would be happy. This is fundamental to the principles of good governance."
The bar and restaurant operators say their tourists like the way tables sprawl onto
the footpath, that it's part of the unique atmosphere of Sisowath Quay.
In the middle section near the St 148 corner, motodups and tables clog the footpath, forcing customers to walk out in the traffic. One bar owner said the difference reflected police enforcement attitudes in two adjoining communes.
Andy Andreos Stanke, owner of the Riverside, organised the meeting and was elected
president. He said Sisowath Quay was one of the most beautiful urban landscapes in
"We understand what the tourists want, because we serve the tourists,"
Stanke said. "We are all working together for the same goal, to encourage more
tourism and to make Cambodia more beautiful. We come here today and form our association
because we want to be sure the police and the sangkat office do not misunderstand
what we are trying to achieve for Phnom Penh."
Tourism secretary Khon said he hoped the new association could participate in meetings
of the Asean Tourism Forum.
Ulli, the German owner of Edelweiss Restaurant, said the government was creating
more problems than it was solving with a "get tough" attitude on the riverside:
"People who come from Europe or the United States want to sit on the street
in the sunshine in a garden area. Europe is very cold with more than six months of
snow, ice, rain and they come here for a summer holiday. They spend money not only
in the bar and restaurant, but also on the haircut, shoeshine, shopping, go to the
market. Everywhere they go they spend money for the benefit of all the Khmer people,
not just for the riverside businesses."
He said the big problem was the government had no idea what to do about providing
sufficient street parking for customers.
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema ... businesses that encroach on the footpath will be fined.
A police official (who asked not to be named) said that payment to police from vendors
and businesses was routine and normal.